Build Rock Hard Abs

There's no need to break your back to harden your gut. But it worked for this guy. Guys with tank-tread stomachs come and go, but Owen McKibbin is different. He built his chiseled midsection while suffering from a broken back. Doctors think McKibbin, who has appeared on seven Men's Health covers (including November 2000), may have been born with a fractured vertebra in his lower back. Or he may have broken it in college while exercising with an injured ankle. Either way, McKibbin carried that snapped bone around with him until a physician diagnosed it when he was 30. "The only thing that relieved the pain was keeping my stomach tight and my hamstrings loose," says McKibbin, now 35. He still works out six days a week, training his midsection and doing 45 minutes of hard aerobics. Here's McKibbin's three-part ab workout:

1. Cat back A traditional yoga move, this exercise works the strap of muscles that runs from the top of your hip-bones to the bottom of your sternum. Rest on your hands and knees on a padded surface, with your hands (fists down) directly beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Slowly raise your head toward the ceiling, and arch your back by pressing your midsection toward the floor (A).

Cat Back (A)

Hold this starting position for a moment; then drop your head between your arms and suck in your gut to round your back(B). Pause and return to the starting position. Do three sets of 20 repetitions.

2. Crunch Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, your fingers touching (but not interlocked). Bring your heels close to your butt, keep your knees together, and pigeon-toe your feet (A).
Cat Back (B) Crunch (A)

Lift your shoulders as if you were trying to touch your ribs to your pelvis (B). Pause for a second, then lower your shoulders (but don't relax your abs), and repeat. McKibbin breathes through his nose for a more effective crunch. Do one set of 25 reps.
Crunch (B)

3. Decline Curlup This is tough, so start out using a decline bench (slant board) adjusted so it's almost flat. Lie on your back with your head near the top of the board, and grab the board above you. Bend your knees and lift your feet so they're close to your butt (A).

Decline Curlup (A)

Slowly curl your knees toward your chest as you exhale (B). Inhale when you lower your hips. McKibbin does five sets of 20 reps; you should probably start with two sets of 15. Increase the angle of the decline bench as you gain strength.

Decline Curlup (B)

Crunches (Basic and Advanced)
The grand-daddy of all abdominal exercises, crunches work the "rectus abdominis" or belly muscles. Basic technique: Lie on your back with your hands crossed on your chest. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your shoulders and curl your body forward, as if you were trying to touch your ribs to your pelvis. Pause for a second, then lower your shoulders -- but don't relax your abs. Do three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. Do keep your lower back on the floor. Don't clasp your hands behind your head. Don't move quickly. Slow and steady works your abs harder. Advanced technique: Here are two ways to make crunches more challenging to your abs. 1. Hold your body in the top position for an extra 3 or 4 seconds. 2. Hold a weight plate in place across your chest.

Circular Crunch
Trains all your abdominal muscles to contract at odd angles, which helps in sports where you have to run -- especially when you bob and cut. Cup your hands lightly over your ears, then slowly raise your head, shoulders, and feet off the floor. This is your starting position. From the starting position, move your knees in a circle (as seen if you were looking down from above). Do this three times in each direction, making as wide a circle as you can. Follow this exercise immediately with the Figure 8 Crunch.

Figure-Eight Crunch
Works all the abdominal muscles, strengthening your torso for twisting during running. This is also helpful for moves such as kicking a soccer ball and hitting a slap shot. Cup your hands lightly over your ears, then slowly raise your head, shoulders, and feet off the floor. This is your starting position.

How to do it: Lie on your back. then lift your knees back to the center. Hold this position for 5 seconds. with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. and hold the crunch for 5 seconds. Do three repetitions. shoulders. football (and letting your 5-year-old nephew hit you in the stomach to show him what a bad-ass you are). Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Follow this exercise immediately with the Circular Crunch. and feet off the floor. a golf club. This is your starting position. baseball throws. Squeeze a light 2 to 5-pound medicine ball (at sporting goods stores) or a thick phone book tightly between your knees. (B) Slowly lower your knees to the right until you feel a comfortable stretch (about halfway to the floor). Keep your elbows out to your sides. Straight-Arm Crunch Trains your rectus abdominis and obliques (belly muscles and side torso muscles) to contract with great force. which help you swing a bat. then slowly raise your head. developing overhead power for tennis serves. so you can absorb impacts during contact sports such as martial arts. (B) Raise your head and shoulders off the floor. resting it on your forehead. then reverse the motion for three more repetitions. boxing. move your knees in a wide figure-eight motion (as seen if you were looking down from above). (A) Hold the ball between your palms. Torso Twist Trains the internal and external obliques. (A) Lie in a crunch position and hold the medicine ball high above your face. . Weighted Crunch Hardens your rectus abdominis and obliques (belly muscles and side torso muscles).From the starting position. Do three repetitions in one direction. (C) Lower your knees to the left for 5 seconds. and volleyball spikes. or a racquet. (C) Alternate this movement to the left and right for three repetitions on each side. Do six twists to each side. the muscles on either side of your torso. (A) Cup your hands lightly over your ears.

Step One (A to B): For the first half of the repetition. (C) Now perform the crunch again. curl your arms up as shown. lower them only onequarter of the way down -.three times. Repeat the entire set of nine repetitions -.(B) Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor. increasing their "peak. then lower yourself. (C) This extra move forces your biceps to contract twice on each repetition. left. Do three repetitions." . and right -.then curl them back up again. For a dumbbell variation. double-duty biceps exercise that works just as well with a barbell. alternating left and right for six repetitions. hold the position for 5 seconds. click here. (A) (B) Step Two (C to D): Instead of letting your arms return to the start position as you would in a regular biceps curl. but rotate your head and shoulders slightly as you rise. 1-1/4 Cable Curl (biceps) An isolation exercise that works the biceps This is a two-step.center.

the muscle at the top of your back. head up. . and don't swivel your hips like Ricky Martin. curl one dumbbell until your forearm is parallel to the ground. Are there any exercises that will give me more definition back there? -. but from the back they look like my little sister's. CSCS.each going the full range of motion. with four to six slow repetitions in each set. hit the rear head of the deltoid. Keep your form. If you can't lift the weight without doing some kind of body gyrations. (A) In either a seated or standing position.. Hold this position. every time you curl one arm. During the exercise. reduce the weight and try again. hold a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing up. Why this works: When you alternate dumbbells in the full up-anddown motion. do two or three sets on each side. your other arm has a chance to take a breather. With your left arm. Switch arm positions. 45-Degree Dumbbell Raise Q: My shoulders look good from the front. Here's a variation with dumbbells. just below your shoulder. (B) With your right arm. that arm should form a 90-degree angle with your torso. you should be putting your biceps under continuous tension throughout the whole set. keep your back straight. "For the most growth. 17 A: If you want to look great on your way out the door." says Michael Mejia.(D) How many? Do one to three sets.Gary K. do six to 10 curls -.

You can lift more weight than you can with other common triceps exercises. "Power lifters often use this exercise when they hit a plateau. says Charles Poliquin. your forearms should be flat against your biceps. . pull the rope up toward your neck rather than toward your chest. (B) Lift the weights up and outward at a 45-degree angle. do the following exercises as a pair. Keeping your back straight. lower the barbell to the top of your chest. with your feet flat on the floor.not just pointing straight ahead. (It's hard to tell in the photo. so 5 to 8 pounds is enough weight. At the end of the movement (when the rope is at chin level)." he explains. Now. so you'll build bigger arms faster. Get Bigger Arms The best exercise for growing big triceps Before you spend all your sweat doing biceps curls. his arms would be making a wide V -. you can do the pair in between sets of bench presses. Do two or three sets of eight to 12 repetitions. M.. you'll lower it at a slight angle. Grab a light barbell with your hands about 10 to 12 inches apart. a strength coach for Olympic athletes in Canada. your thumbs pointing forward. remember that it's your triceps that really add size to your arms. position the barbell so that it's directly over the center of your chest. To do a California press. your upper arms should be parallel to the floor.) Spreading your arms at a 45-degree angle is what makes this exercise really tough. Do two or three sets of 12 repetitions. Pause. sit at a cable-row station. and add weight gradually.) When the barbell touches your chest. (A) Lie facedown on an incline bench with a light dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your elbows close to your sides. (That's right. with your elbows slightly bent. then slowly press the bar up and out to begin again.S. lie on your back on a bench. If you're pressed for time. but if you looked at this guy from overhead. The California press is one of the most effective exercises for overloading the triceps. near your collarbone. Do two or three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.To do that. resting 15 seconds after each set. Then do this move if you have access to a gym: Using a rope attachment.

it's timing the flip. do this while seated. then lift. Dumbbell Draw Functional exercise that works the biceps and the brachialis (on the outside edge of the biceps) Grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulderwidth apart. 4. but don't twist. bending your elbow and extending it behind your body. With your right palm facing forward. then curl up the left dumbbell. Usually it's because they've never learned the secrets that guarantee success. stand straight. pause for 1 second. 2." Graham says. with your feet in line with your shoulders. 1. "If you look down. Keeping your back straight and your elbows pinned against you. slowly begin curling the right dumbbell up. C. Holding two light dumbbells (start with each one at 10 percent of your weight). Pennsylvania. It should take you 4 seconds to reach the top.S. Don't twist the dumbbell as you curl. Lower the dumbbell to a count of four. "it gives you more leverage and makes you sway. If you can't lift the dumbbell past the midpoint without moving your elbow or leaning back. an exercise physiologist in Allentown. it's keeping it strict." Keep alternating arms for 12 repetitions each. 3. Stay in line. If you have lower-back problems. Pin your elbows against your rib cage. slowly pull the dumbbell up and in line with the side of your body. you're using more momentum than muscle. gave us his recipe for the perfect muscle-building curl. Raise the dumbbell slightly above your chest without moving your elbow forward.. Your palms should face straight out.S. and wrists should be aligned. it's too heavy. . For omelettes. elbows. Lift. Use heavier weights when you can do 13 repetitions on the third set." says Graham. Your shoulders.C. Always look straight ahead as you curl. don’t cheat." says Graham. and then squeeze your biceps muscle. "If you lift the left dumbbell as you lower the right one. The dumbbell should be tucked below your armpit. For curls. Biceps curls are like omelettes: The concept is so simple that it's hard to understand how people screw it up.Bicep Curls Done Right If you want ’em to look like baseballs. Lower. John Graham. "If you rotate it. your shoulders will hunch forward. Do three sets twice a week. making the curl less effective. Count to four.

and then switch arms. As you raise the dumbbells. reverse the rotation. Then. your elbows pointing straight out and bent 90 degrees. Do 2 or 3 sets. grab the handle with your right hand. and use heavier dumbbells when you can do 12 repetitions easily. Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing your knees." explains fitness expert Wayne Westcott. "This forces your chest muscles to contract more powerfully during the press. Do 10 to 12 repetitions. Using an overhand grip. keeping your elbow bent. And that means you'll develop more muscle with fewer repetitions. dumbbell bench presses do the job quickly. so your elbows are closer together when your arms are fully extended. slowly turn your fists inward so that your knuckles face each other when your arms are fully extended. bringing your elbow down and back until it is once again pointing directly behind you. PhD. so it's pointing directly in front of you and your upper arm is parallel to the floor. then lower the dumbbells as you rotate your hands back to their starting position.Next. Full Kickback Functional exercise that works the entire triceps (back of upper arm) Attach a handle to the high cable of a pulley station and stand facing the tower with your feet about shoulder-width apart. But one subtle adjustment to the standard move will help you build even more brawn: Slowly rotate the weights inward as you push them up. . bring your elbow down past your waist and up. Pause for a moment. The dumbbell should be nearly touching the top of your shoulder. Contract your chest muscles forcefully for 1 full second. Do two sets of 10 repetitions. How to do it: Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly lower the weight until it's next to your thigh. Dumbbell Bench Press w/Twist If you want to add muscle to your chest.

Do it right and it can strengthen your deltoids and triceps.Keeping your arm rigid and your elbow slightly bent. pull the handle straight down. Wanna look like G. Place your feet on the floor and allow your arms to hang straight down. Lying Incline Curls An isolation exercise that works the biceps Grab a dumbbell in each hand and lie facedown on an incline bench adjusted to a 45-degree angle. The bar should be even with your shoulders. Lowering it to your chest can cause injury. then return to the starting position. Your elbows are the key to proper hand spacing. The Military Press A great muscle-building exercise. Sitting takes away the shock absorption provided by the legs and puts too much pressure on the spine. you should do it while standing. Do 2 or 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. Press the weight from in front of your shoulders.I. Here are some handy tips to doing it right. and it can mess up your shoulders and turn your arms into soggy noodles. Position your feet a few inches wider than shoulder-width apart. Work up to 2 or 3 sets per arm. Use a weight that lets . There's no need to lift your heels to assist with the press. Joe? The military press can help you get there. though. grab the bar so your arms are bent at approximately 45-degree angles. back or front of the shoulder means your form is off. as long as you do it right. Continue moving your arm as far behind you as possible. Repeat with your left arm. Discomfort at the top. Pause. And yes. Slowly curl your right arm under the bench and diagonally across your body toward your left elbow. not from behind. Do 10 to 12 repetitions. Do it wrong. and then behind your body. In the down position. and then slowly bring your arm back to the starting position. then switch arms. past your right hip. with your palms facing in.

do three sets of pullups for three workouts per week.you perform two sets of eight repetitions.and strong. This is a shoulder exercise. Bent wrists become injured wrists. If you crane your neck. Biceps Pulldown Functional exercise that works the biceps and the brachialis (on the outside edge of the biceps) Sit at a lat pulldown station with your knees underneath the pads and your feet flat on the floor. an exercise physiologist at the University of Utah. and refigure your maximum repetitions every four weeks. grab the bar with an underhand grip that's a few inches narrower than shoulder-width apart. you risk straining it. Slowly pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. until the bar is just underneath your chin (imagine you're doing a pullup). with your hands shoulder-width apart.. so leave your lower body out of the action. then slowly return the bar to the starting position. use an overhand grip on the bar (palms facing away from you). Raise the weight until your arms are almost completely extended but not locked. Ph. there's no better exercise. Hold for a moment. The barbell should be above your head. Keep your wrists straight. Here it is. but if you want to build a big upper body. Do 2 or 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. Delicate shoulder muscles can't handle more than that. Use a mirror to keep an eye on your form. Now. bending your elbows. First. With your back straight and arms fully extended. Bill Sands. Keep your back straight to minimize stress on the lower-back muscles. . looking straight ahead. slowly pull the bar straight down. The Pullup Workout It’s painful. Keep your eyes facing ahead. Follow this program. Your knees should be straight. letting it go back behind your head may cause rotatorcuff damage. gave us a beginner's program that’s sure to make you sore –. Then. and repeat until your form falters. but it pays off Pullups are torture. Lower yourself.D. your total is your maximum repetitions.

do 6 pullups) for three sets. Add another rep to each set. your palms facing inward. lean forward at the waist so that your upper body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Do two sets of 10 repetitions. and a dumbbell in each hand. Raise your shoulders toward your ears. Week Four: Resume your shoulder-width overhand grip. Week Three: Using an overhand grip.to 60-degree angle. so it is nearly parallel to the floor. hold a dumbbell at your side. grab the bar 4 inches wider than your shoulders on each side. Return to the starting position. Shrug and Raise Functional exercise that develops the upper back and entire shoulder Stand with your arms at your sides. Keeping your shoulders shrugged. adding one rep. but keep your elbow bent at a right angle. Now raise the upper part of your right arm out to the side.width apart. Your arms should go no higher than your shoulders. Side Kickout Isolation exercise that works the entire triceps (back of upper arm) Grab a dumbbell in your right hand and stand with a bench by your left side. This is the starting position. With your knees slightly bent. feet shoulder. Side-Lying Raise Functional exercise that develops the side and rear shoulder muscles Lie on your side on an incline bench or slant board that's tilted at a 5. . bend your elbows at 90-degree angles and lift the weights to your sides in a motion similar to the one you use for a lateral raise. brace your left hand on the bench. but use an underhand grip that's slightly wider than your shoulders. Week Two: Add one rep to each set. With your left hand.Week One: Start by doing 60 percent of your maximum (if your max is 10.

With an overhand grip. . Move back until the weight is engaged when your arms are extended. Do two sets of eight to 10 repetitions on each side. or go to a fitness supply store and buy the real thing. extend your forearm behind you. then switch arms. develop your shoulders and upper back muscles. Grip the handle firmly with both hands. Keeping your arm close to your body. bracing your left hand on your right thigh. grab the handle in your right hand and slowly pull it up to your chest. squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a full second. Hold for 1 second. Flex your knees and bend forward slightly. Standing Cable Row A functional exercise that works the shoulders and upper back Sometimes an optical illusion can be your friend. Work up to 2 or 3 sets per arm. keeping the natural arc in your back. (B) Pull the rope toward your upper chest until your elbows are even with your shoulders. This is the starting position. As you pull. Do 10 to 12 repetitions. then return to the starting position. To make your waist look smaller. Single-Arm Pulley Row Functional exercise that works the entire triceps (back of upper arm) Stand facing a pulley station with your feet shoulder-width apart.) Note: Skip this exercise if you have lower-back problems. (A) Fasten the rope handle to the low pulley of a cable machine set to a light weight. Pause. and then bring the handle back to your chest. Don't have access to a cable machine? Attach an elastic cord to a low support. Bend forward about 45 degrees. Stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart.Raise the weight until your arm almost reaches a 90-degree angle with your body. Building these will help give you that classic "wedge" look. (Road bike inner tubes work in a pinch.

Do two sets of 10 repetitions. .Return to the starting position without releasing the tension in your shoulders. and add weight when you can easily do 12 repetitions.

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